THE CURRENT crop of mayoral candidates confirms what we always have said: Give the mayor real authority, pay him - or her - reasonably well, and people with intelligence, vision, and ability will line up to seek the job. That leaves Toledoans with the difficult but agreeable dilemma of whom to vote for in Tuesday's primary election.
Five strong candidates have responded to the city's darkest need. No matter which two are chosen to move on to the General Election, Toledo will likely be well served. Each of the five major candidates - detailed alphabetically below - could be mayor, and any would be better than the two who have served since Toledo switched to the strong-mayor format in 1992.
Mike Bell, a Democrat running as an independent, is a bit of an enigma thus far, his position on many issues somewhat undefined, but he is a good, decent man, popular, affable, and calm in a crisis. He also has the requisite administrative experience, having had to deal with powerful unions and large budgets as both Toledo fire chief and Ohio's state fire marshal.
D. Michael Collins, a 27-year police veteran (including 10 as police union president) and the current District 2 representative on Toledo City Council, has a long record of public service. Running as an independent, he entered the race late but has come on strong. He has some interesting ideas, including turning the Edison Steam Plant into a freshwater aquarium.
Ben Konop, a first-term Lucas County commissioner, would bring youth, energy, enthusiasm, and new ideas to the mayor's office. The 33-year-old Democrat relates easily to Toledo's younger generation but has demonstrated his genuine interest in the city's senior and less-well-off residents. His campaign has a populist feel, and that's not a bad thing.
Republican Jim Moody has been a pleasant surprise. A political neophyte, he has worked doggedly to get out his name and ideas. And lest anyone think a Republican has no chance in this city, remember that 17,000 Toledoans cast their ballots in the GOP primary last year. If they turn out for Mr. Moody, he could easily find himself on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Democrat Keith Wilkowski, a successful lawyer, has a distinguished political pedigree and considerable experience as a civic leader. The son of the late state Rep. Art Wilkowski, he has been a Lucas County commissioner, Toledo law director, and president of the board of Toledo Public Schools. His focus on jobs cuts to the heart of Toledo's problems.
People who said the strong-mayor system wouldn't deliver quality candidates are being proved wrong five times over. This group has talent and ability, making this a hopeful primary, a primary for the ages, a primary to be envied by cities everywhere.
Because this has been such a close horse race, we won't try to pick the "exacta."
The stakes are high, every ballot counts, so we'll simply say: Vote.
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